HSJ’s list of the top chief executives in the NHS was judged by some of the service’s leading figures


  • Paul Burstow, chair, Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB
  • Sean Duggan, chief executive, NHS Confederation Mental Health Network
  • Dr Navina Evans, chief workforce officer, NHS England and chief executive, Health Education England
  • Beccy Fenton, partner and head of health and human services, KPMG
  • Dr Claire Fuller, chief executive, Surrey Heartlands ICS
  • Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive, NHS Providers
  • James Illman, bureau chief, HSJ
  • Samantha Jones, non-executive director, Department of Health and Social Care
  • Patricia Marquis, director for England, Royal College of Nursing
  • Alastair McLellan, editor, HSJ
  • Habib Naqvi, chief executive, NHS Race and Health Observatory
  • Donna Ockenden, chair, independent review into maternity services at the Nottingham University Hospitals Trust
  • Dr Bola Owolabi, director for health inequalities, NHS England
  • Sir David Sloman, chief operating officer, NHS England

Ms Jones took no part in the discussions around Mr Harrison

Sir David was involved in deciding the top 50 but did not take part in choosing the top 18


The judges were asked to bear in mind the following criteria for the top 50.

  • The performance of the chief executive over the last year. We look for chief executives who have steered their organisations through these difficult times, including supporting staff and ensuring patients get the best care possible given the constraints trusts will have been facing. We also look at other aspects of leadership, while acknowledging the ability to demonstrate these may have been impacted by the pandemic and the pressures of the last few months. This covers chief executives’ leadership style and behaviours, including their approach to mentoring and developing more junior staff; encouraging inclusive leadership; how they work with their board, both executives and non-executives; and their standing among their peers and personal qualities.
  • The performance of the organisation they lead, given the circumstances it is in. We will look at the results of the staff survey and any recent Care Quality Commission reports while acknowledging many organisations are struggling on the traditional metrics around waiting times.
  • The contribution the chief executive has made to the wider health and social care system. This might be through leading on important projects, either nationally or locally, or taking on additional roles such as chairing integrated care partnerships. As integrated care systems have developed, we have sought chief executives who are working for the benefit of the system as a whole rather than only protecting the interests of their own organisations.

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